Judge Grills Oracle, DOJ Attorneys in Closing Remarks

Rather than simply listening to each side's closing argument, Judge Vaughan Walker questioned their stances and again expressed doubt about the Justice Department's definition of the "high-function" enterprise software market.

SAN FRANCISCO—After a four-week trial, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker showed on Tuesday that he still had distinct doubts about the Department of Justices definition of the "high-function" enterprise software market. This definition is key to the governments effort to prove that Oracles $7.7 billion bid to buy out PeopleSoft would violate antitrust law.

Both sides spent a total of 3 ½ hours presenting their closing arguments in the case that will determine whether Oracle Corp. will be allowed to follow through with its tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of PeopleSoft Inc.

With the trial and closing arguments complete, Oracle and DOJ lawyers estimated that it will be at least three or four weeks before Judge Walker issues his decision.

The government called on Walker to block the merger on the grounds that only Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP AG compete for sales of high-function enterprise software to enterprise customers.

Rather than simply listening to both sides present their arguments, Walker took the lead in questioning each attorney about the key points of their cases and the issues he was still seeking answers to.

Walker called the governments definition "unwieldy and awkward," noting that it includes 18 different elements describing features, function and complexity. He asked DOJ lead attorney Claude Scott, "Is this a definition that has ever been used outside of this litigation?"

Scott answered, "Regardless of whether there is a technical, formal definition, the market acts in a way consistent with there being two products and two sets of customers"—midrange and high end. Voluminous testimony by customers and vendors supports the governments definition, he said.

Walker also questioned the DOJs insistence that the relevant antitrust market should be limited to the United State rather than to the global enterprise application software market. All three main competitors sell the same suite of applications in markets around the world, Walker noted.

Scott argued that the United States should be the relevant market because SAP doesnt have the same competitive position in North America that it does in Europe and in other parts of the world. In the United States, Oracle and PeopleSoft are stronger competitors because customers prefer to do business with domestic vendors, he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about Judge Walkers persistent efforts to obtain a clear definition of the "high-function" enterprise applications software market.

The merger would end the "fierce head-to-head competition" that enables customers to win hefty price discounts and frequent product upgrades, the DOJ argued. Furthermore, the government rejected Oracles claims that other competing companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Lawson Software Inc., would move upmarket to fill the niche that was occupied by PeopleSoft.

Oracle lead attorney Daniel Wall argued that the government failed to prove its "unilateral effects" theory that Oracles buyout of PeopleSoft alone would be anticompetitive and would give Oracle the market power to raise prices to the detriment of customers.

Next Page: PeopleSofts Conway makes an appearance.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...